However, DeVos said nothing about what school supervisors have said they need to reopen: billions of dollars in extra federal funding to cover the costs of changes they need to make and personal protective equipment they need to buy. In fact, last week DeVos threatened to withhold federal funding from districts that did not do what she wanted, even though she cannot unilaterally stop funding approved by Congress.
School district leaders across the country have been working for months to find out how to plan for different events during the school year: all students staying at home and doing distance education, all students returning to school or a hybrid of some at school and some at home.
Although some districts are planning to open in a few weeks, it is still unclear exactly how most of them will do with coronavirus rates such as skyrocketing in several states. Health experts have warned that flooding is likely to continue into the fall, which could complicate resumption plans of some kind.
Last week, the New York Times published internal disease control and prevention centers warning of opening K-12 schools and higher education institutions in the way Trump and DeVos want – altogether – to pose “the highest risk” of the spread of the virus. CDC guidance requires comprehensive measures that schools must take, including six-foot social distance, which can be difficult or impossible in school buildings with small rooms.
After calling twice last week for schools to fully open again – once in the White House and once in the education department – the education secretary on Sunday did it again but did not answer Bash’s questions directly.
When asked if schools should follow the CDC’s reopening guidelines, DeVos said: “The CDC guidelines are just that, intended to be flexible and intended to be appropriately applied to the situation.”
But when asked if she would be comfortable if school districts decided that distance learning was necessary, she said, “I think the go-to has to be kids in school, personally, in the classroom because we know for most kids that it’s the best environment for them. “She said exceptions could be made for students with health conditions.
Bash went on to ask what districts should do if they cannot ensure that all students can come to school safely. DeVos said: “If it is a short-term inflation for a few days, it is a different situation than planning for a whole school year waiting for something that has not happened.”
She also said: “Where there are small inflations or hot spots, which can be handled from one school for each school or on a case by case basis.”
As for whether she has a plan to help school districts open, DeVos said there are “really good examples that have been used in the private sector.”
“We are a country of action,” she said. “… We have education leaders who can work hard and find out.”